Those fortunate enough to have been in Elmira, New York this August were treated to an academic conference filled with lively, thought-provoking papers, sumptuous dinners, joyous social gatherings, and several special events. The official title was “Elmira 2001: The Fourth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies,” held August 16-18, 2001 on the campus of Elmira College, organized by the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies. Unofficially, it could be called the world’s finest gathering of Twain scholars and enthusiasts. Held every four years since 1989, this year’s conference was, in the opinion of many, the best yet.
There were ten panels in plenary session, with topics
including “Mark Twain and the Body,” “Mark Twain in Pieces,” and “Mark Twain at
His Funniest”; two pairs of concurrent sessions; discussion groups on teaching
various Twain works, including Roughing It and The Gilded Age;
and a concluding roundtable discussion, “The Future of Mark Twain
Studies.” That future seems bright
indeed, given the quality of the papers and discussions, by scholars from all
corners of the
And literally, attendees feasted, too, with a series of dinners and social events that provided even more time for discussion and camaraderie. Especially notable were Friday night’s “Supper at Saranac,” which included canoes as decoration and trout cooked to order, and Saturday night’s dinner at Quarry Farm in honor of Louis J. Budd’s 80th birthday. It’s always a treat to sit in the rocking chairs on the porch of Quarry Farm, although 40 or so stalwarts climbed up the hill in the dark to the original site of the octagonal study, then lit up 40 or so cigars and puffed away. (It was remarked that all the cigars there probably did not match Mark Twain in a single day.) Late each night, a few more cigars were lit and more than a few glasses raised at The Cornpone Pub on campus (cornpone opinions given freely).
One special highlight was the presentation of the Henry Nash Smith Award to Howard Baetzhold. Another was a preview of the upcoming Ken Burns film Mark Twain, including remarks by director Ken Burns and writer Dayton Duncan. The preview merely whets the appetite for the PBS presentation in January, which is sure to set off even more public interest in Mark Twain and a great deal of discussion in Mark Twain circles. A packed Gibson Theatre was an exciting place to be that night.
The name of Charles Neider is familiar to everyone in the field of Mark Twain
studies, yet when he died in his Princeton,
Another possible reason for Neider's distance from current Mark Twain people is that he had no academic affiliation and has been widely perceived as a popularizer—the kind of label whose negative connotations are typically magnified by its bearer's success, and when it came to publishing Mark Twain books, Neider was uniquely successful. If a "popularizer" is one who helps spread interest in Mark Twain, Neider well deserved the label, for it is possible that his Mark Twain editions have been more widely read than those of anyone else, including Albert Bigelow Paine and the Mark Twain Project.
A man of many parts, Neider
would make an interesting study in his own right. He was born in
Neider's interest in Mark Twain began in the mid-1950s, when he read Roughing It while researching the Western novel he published as The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones (later made into the Marlon Brando film One-eyed Jacks). In 1957 he published his first Mark Twain collection, The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain—which may well be the most widely read collection of Mark Twain's short works.
Neider followed with other collections that covered the gamut of Mark Twain writings: The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain (1961), Mark Twain: Life As I Find It: Essays, Sketches, Tales and Other Material (1961), Complete Essays of Mark Twain (1963), The Travels of Mark Twain (1961), The Complete Novels of Mark Twain (1964), The Complete Travel Books of Mark Twain (2 volumes, 1966), The Comic Mark Twain Reader (1977), The Selected Letters of Mark Twain (1982), Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims and Other Salutary Platform Opinions (1984), Mark Twain at His Best: A Comprehensive Sampler (1986) and The Outrageous Mark Twain (1987). Through those years, his books helped remind the world that Mark Twain wrote much more than Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Neider's most important book, however, was arguably The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959), in which he fashioned a chronological structure that was lacking in the original material and included never-before-published passages. Certainly the most widely read version of Mark Twain's autobiographical writings, that book has played a major role in shaping the public image of Mark Twain the man.
Neider also put his personal stamp on other Mark Twain books, such as The Gilded Age. In 1965, he published The Adventures of Colonel Sellers, in which he condensed all of Charles Dudley Warner's chapters to brief interchapter passages, in the same way (as Neider pointed out) that Mark Twain himself had constructed "Those Extraordinary Twins" out of the original draft of Pudd'nhead Wilson. Neider's edition of A Tramp Abroad (1977) omits what he considered the book's most tedious passages, and in his edition of Huckleberry Finn (1985), he condensed the "evasion" chapters. He also later edited Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain by Susy Clemens (1985).
The best summary of Neider's Mark Twain work can be found in his elegantly written 1967 book titled, simply, Mark Twain, which collected the introductions to his earlier books, along with other essays, including the well-known "Mark Twain and the Russians: An Exchange of Views" (1960). In the current light of all the Mark Twain publishing that has taken place over the past 34 years, that book makes remarkable reading today, revealing not only the breadth and depth of Neider's knowledge of Mark Twain, but also his understanding of the man. A statement he made in his introduction to The Complete Novels sums up the contradictions with which he—like modern Mark Twain scholars—had long grappled: "Mark Twain was one of those wayward geniuses whom it is not always to defend or understand."
Mark Twain at the Western
Literature Association 2001
Sue Maher, President
Western Literature Association
The 36th annual Western Literature Association meeting will be held in
Chair: Dave Raabe,
great do tumble': Mark Twain's Later Correspondence to the
Raychel Reiff, University of Wisconsin-Superior, "To Be or Not To Be: Mark Twain's Burlesque Hamlet"
We are also scheduling sessions on other Twain contemporaries (Ambrose Bierce, Bret Harte) and 19th-century American literature topics at this meeting.
Mark Twain at SAMLA 2001
Session Title: Mark Twain's Defenders and Detractors
Chair: Philip W. Leon, The Citadel
Secretary: Joseph A. Alvarez, Central Piedmont CC
“My Mark Twain Revisited”—John Bird, Winthrop U
“What Trouble It [Is] to Make a Book: Defenders and Detractors of Mark Twain as a Literary Artist”—Joe B. Fulton, Baylor U
“With Friends Like These: Damning Mark Twain with
the Faintest of Praise”—Alan Gribben, Auburn U at
“Letting Mark Twain Think”—Jason Gary Horn, Gordon C
Respondent: Gregg Camfield, U of the Pacific
Joe B. Fulton, Baylor U
Allison Ensor, U of
Current Mark Twain
James S. Leonard
Current Mark Twain Bibliography is a means of giving notice of what’s new in Mark Twain scholarship. Where annotations are used, they are in most cases descriptive blurbs provided by publishers (or in some cases, by authors) with value judgments edited out. If you have recently published something that you would like to have included in this list, send it to me by e-mail (email@example.com), or by other means.
Norton, Charles. Huckleberry Finn and Mark Twain: Death, Deceit, Dreams and Disguises. Xlibris Corporation, 2000. Softcover, 8.54 x 5.38. 208 pages. $21.99. ISBN 0-7388-4144-7. [Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum on Sept. 2, 2001 by Errol Craig Sull.]
Twain, Mark. Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain Library, 9.
Edited by Victor Fischer and Lin Salamo
with Harriet Elinor Smith and Walter Blair.
Bowden, Betsy. “Gloom and Doom in Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, from Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur.” Studies in American Fiction 28.2 (Autumn 2000): 179B202.
Oggel, Terry L. “Speaking Out About Race: ‘The United Sates
of Lyncherdom’ Clemens Really Wrote.” Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural
Petersson, Bo. “Who Is ‘Sivilizing’ Who(m)? The Function of Naivety and the Criticism of Huckleberry Finn—A Multidimensional Approach.” Writing in Nonstandard English. Ed. Irma Taavitsainen, Gunnel Melchers, and Päivi Pahta. Benjamins, 1999. 101-22.
Slotta, Robert. “Twain Makes His Mark as Ephemera Giant.” Ephemera News 19.3 (Spring 2001): 1, 13B17.
Call for Papers • 2002
Panel One: “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pedagogy and Critical Editions.” The intention is to have a panel discussing the various editions of Adventures of Huck Finn, specifically their use in the classroom. A variety of editions would be welcome and they could be critically reviewed. No matter the edition chosen there are always issues associated with that choice: whether or not to include the raftsmen's chapter, the importance of textual illustrations, etc.
Panel Two: "Would someone please suggest a definitive biography dealing with Mr. Clemens' life history?" Earlier this year there was a spirited discussion on TWAIN-L@YORKU.CA about what constitutes "definitive" Mark Twain biography. Recommendations included such well-known biographers as Kaplan and Hill, as well as votes to bypass published biographies in favor of the Mark Twain Project's volumes of Mark Twain's Letters and of his Notebooks and Journals. Papers would address such topics as whether the term "definitive" biography is a myth or if biography as a genre should be considered a responsible defining of a subject's existence.
Please send paper proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Twain Sites
What’s Past, and Passing, and to Come
2001 Spring Lecture Series
"The Trouble Begins at Eight"
Wednesday, April 25, 2001
"‘Only Heedlessly a Savage’: Mark Twain’s ‘Indian Identity’”¾Kerry
Wednesday, May 9, 2001
"The View from the Porch: Place, Family, Mark
Twain, and Me"¾Michael
J. Kiskis (
Wednesday, May 23, 2001
"Fact and Fiction in Following the Equator"¾Robert
Summer Course at Quarry Farm: ENGL 5255
C “Mark Twain
Themes: Reading Race in Mark Twain and
2001 Fall Lecture Series
"The Trouble Begins at Eight"
Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2001
"Shakespeare on the Frontier: Horsey, Huck, and Hamlet"¾Miriam Shillingsburg (Indiana University South Bend)
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2001
Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2001
"The Creation of the Mark Twain Documentary
Film: A Photographer’s Perspective"¾Robert Sargent Fay (
Dates to Circle
October 17-20, 2001. Western Literature
Association Conference. Mark
Twain session: "Traveling with Twain."
November 9-11, 2001.
December 27-30, 2001. Modern Language Association
May 30-June 2, 2001. American
Literature Association Annual Conference.